NASA Monitoring 3-Mile-Wide Asteroid –“Largest Potentially Hazardous NEO Ever Tracked This Close to Earth”

 

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On September 1, an asteroid almost three miles wide named after Florence Nightingale will safely fly by Earth at a distance of 4.4 million miles. The last time it came closer to Earth was 1890 and the next time it will come anywhere near us will be 2500. Florence, is one of the biggest near-Earth objects (NEOs) currently being tracked by NASA and will be the largest to pass us at a relatively close distance since the space agency began monitoring them 20 years ago. It is classified as a “potentially hazardous” by the Minor Planet Center.


NASA will use the Goldstone Solar System Radar in California and at the National Science Foundation’s Arecibo Observatory in Puerto Rico to study Florence. The team expects to find out the real size of the asteroid and surface details up to a distance of around 30 feet.

“While many known asteroids have passed by closer to Earth than Florence will…all of those were estimated to be smaller,” said Paul Chodas, manager of NASA’s Center for Near-Earth Object Studies. “Florence is the largest asteroid to pass by our planet this close since the NASA program to detect and track near-Earth asteroids began.”

 

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Florence should be visible with small telescopes at the end of August and at the start of September. During this time, it will appear to move through the Piscis Austrinus, Capricornus, Aquarius and Delphinus.

The team will be able to determine if Florence is part of a binary system, meaning it has a companion asteroid.​ If Florence has a satellite, then our chances of detecting it are excellent, and if so, then we plan to measure its motion to estimate the orbital parameters, mass, and density of the system,” NASA said.

Observations will begin on 29 August and will continue to September 8.

The Daily Galaxy via NASA/JPL/Caltech

Image credit: With thanks to cometwatch.co.uk

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